Pursuing an Ovarian Cancer DNA Analysis
Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cancer-related cause of death in cisgender women, and accounts for more deaths than any other female reproductive system disease. With a 1 in 78 risk of developing this disease, a woman might want to pursue ovarian cancer genetic testing for peace of mind, health and wellness clarity, and methods of prevention to have on hand. That risk runs even higher if more than one of your relatives has an ovarian cancer history, which is a major reason professionals have worked so hard to make a reliable ovarian cancer DNA analysis widely available.
What is ovarian cancer?
A female reproductive system contains one ovary on each side of the uterus – about the size of an almond. These small organs produce estrogen, progesterone, and eggs. Cancer is a result of abnormal cell growth, and in the case of ovarian cancer, this invasion forms in a person’s ovaries. The cells multiply at an alarmingly rapid rate, and run the risk of spreading into healthy body tissue to establish infection. Once a cell has grown abnormally, it can grow into an ovarian cyst, which can cause pain, infertility, and may eventually develop into a tumor. However, not all ovarian cysts turn into cancer – and they’re also more common than many people might realize. Unfortunately, in some cases the cells develop into malignant (cancerous) tumors. When this happens, the tumors can move into other areas of the body, allowing the cancer to progress with even more ease and prowess.
The different types of ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer can be classified into three different categories, depending on what type of cell the disease begins in.
- Epithelial ovarian cancer
This type of cancer begins in the epithelial cells, which make up the outer lining of the ovaries. This type of ovarian cancer is by far the most common: 85-90 percent of cases are epithelial ovarian cancer.
- Germ cell ovarian cancer
Germ cell ovarian cancer begins in the egg cells, which are located in the ovaries. This type of ovarian cancer tends to occur in younger people, like teenagers and young women. It’s quite an uncommon iteration of the disease, and it has a high survival rate.
- Stromal ovarian cancer
Stromal ovarian cancer is a rare version of the disease that begins in the ovarian connective tissue. It tends to have an effect on the body’s hormones, which makes it a little easier to detect at early stages.
The different stages of ovarian cancer
Like other forms of cancer, ovarian cancer can be classified into four different stages, depending on how far it’s spread throughout the body. When caught in earlier stages, patients are much more likely to survive ovarian cancer.
- Stage I
During Stage I, the cancer is located in one or both of the ovaries, but it has not spread beyond this region of the body.
- Stage II
Stage II is defined by the spreading of the cancer from one or both of the ovaries to other pelvic organs – like the uterus.
- Stage III
Stage III is in place when that cancerous tumor growth has gone beyond the ovaries and pelvic region, making its way to the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV
During Stage IV, widespread cancer growth has begun, and might be located in regions like the liver, lungs, bones, spleen, or other organs.
The main symptoms of ovarian cancer
There are a few different recognized symptoms that could mean ovarian cancer is on the horizon. Here are some of the most common indications:
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal swelling
- Abdominal discomfort
- Abdominal pain
- Trouble eating
- Feeling full very quickly when eating
- Unusual urinary symptoms (like always feeling like you have to go, or having to go more often than normal)
- Pain during sex
- Irregular menstrual bleeding (like bleeding heavier or spotting more than usual)
- Unexpected weight loss
- Pelvic discomfort
The main causes of ovarian cancer
A big reason someone might pursue an ovarian cancer DNA test is because someone in their family has a history with ovarian cancer. As we mentioned earlier, it can run in families, and the risk goes up when more members of your family have suffered from the illness. But there are also a few other known causes that tend to lead to ovarian cancer, and these are things you’ll want to keep in mind and avoid if you think you might be at risk.
- Older age
In general, people over the age of 55 are at a higher risk of developing any form of cancer, and older cisgender women might be more likely to get ovarian cancer.
Endometriosis is a disorder where tissue similar to that which grows inside the uterus grows outside of the organ instead. Having this illness can leave you more susceptible to developing ovarian cancer, and it’s a big reason to pursue ovarian cancer DNA testing.
If you’re unable to get pregnant for over a year despite having consistently unprotected sex, you’re considered infertile – and infertility is a recognized ovarian cancer risk factor.
Being overweight increases a person’s risk for many forms of cancer, and for women with a BMI of 30 or higher, ovarian cancer is more likely to contract.
Ovarian cancer risk can be lower or higher depending on how many times a woman has ovulated throughout her life. If you began menstruating at a particularly early age, never had children, never took birth control, or began menopause after the age of 50, you might be more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
- Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapies are often utilized to soothe symptoms of menopause, but they may also increase one’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Prevention techniques against ovarian cancer
Although ovarian cancer can be genetic, there are a few different methods that might work as a prevention technique – even if your odds are higher than the average person’s. Here are some widely recognized techniques that seem to help in the fight against ovarian cancer:
- Take birth control for five or more years
Taking birth control seems to lower a person’s risk for ovarian cancer, so you may want to try some medication out for yourself. We recommend speaking with your doctor or medical professional to figure out which birth control option works best for you.
- Have a tubal ligation
Getting your tubes tied is a form of pregnancy prevention, as the surgery renders a woman infertile. It may also drastically reduce a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Remove both of your ovaries
Having your ovaries removed – a.k.a., an oophorectomy – is another great way to ward off ovarian cancer, but it will also cause menopause to begin immediately after the surgery has been performed.
- Get a hysterectomy
With a hysterectomy, a person’s uterus is removed – and in some cases, the cervix is a well. The surgery is known for reducing ovarian cancer risk.
- Give birth
This shouldn’t be the only reason you decide to get pregnant and have a child, but if you’re able to do so and you already know that’s something you want, know that it can also decrease your risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Again, you might not be able to do so. But if you can breastfeed, studies have revealed that women who milk themselves for a year or longer enjoy a reduced risk of ovarian cancer.
- Talk to your doctor